2017-05-11 / Front Page

Islands Wildlife Hosts Pike Contest

By Debra Petkus


Rick Eberts is a member of the Islands Wildlife group who enjoys kayaking and other sports. Behind him is the freshwater marsh on Mackinac Bay, part of the Les Cheneaux Islands area and home to many varieties of birds, fish, and wildlife. Rick Eberts is a member of the Islands Wildlife group who enjoys kayaking and other sports. Behind him is the freshwater marsh on Mackinac Bay, part of the Les Cheneaux Islands area and home to many varieties of birds, fish, and wildlife. Watching an eagle fly outside his office window is one of the rewards of working from home for Rick Eberts, an automotive writer who lives on Mackinac Bay in the Les Cheneaux area.

Mr. Eberts is one of more than 20 members of Islands Wildlife, a Les Cheneaux association created 27 years ago to raise money locally for regional conservation endeavors.

“We have a diverse group of individuals who really love living here,” Mr. Eberts said. “Our focus is on the islands and doing right by the community.”

He and his wife, Roxanne, vacationed in the area in the late 1990s, visiting family, and always enjoyed the area. They considered moving here with the idea that he could travel to Detroit for his job, as necessary.


The welcome sign to the Les Cheneaux Islands area greets drivers traveling down M-134 toward Hessel and Cedarville. The welcome sign to the Les Cheneaux Islands area greets drivers traveling down M-134 toward Hessel and Cedarville. “It is quite often a guy has to drag his wife, but she very much wanted to live here,” Mr. Eberts said.

Being close to the water “was huge for us,” he said, so they made the transition from city life in the Ypsilanti Ann Arbor area to Mackinac Bay.

The Eberts have reared five children, and all were graduated from Cedarville High School. The family loves outdoor adventures, including kayak rides launched from their own dock.

The Les Cheneaux area is home to such wildlife as deer, otter, and wolves. Family members occasionally see bear and moose, too, Mr. Eberts said.

His daughter encountered large wolf tracks and saw much blood splattered in the snow during a crosscountry skiing excursion in the winter of 2015-2016. The crows in the area were calling loudly and the father and daughter later came upon a freshly-killed deer carcass.


The waters in the Les Cheneaux area are host to a variety of fish, including pike, perch, splake, salmon, and lake trout. On this chilly spring day, the water near the Cedarville Marina is calm. The waters in the Les Cheneaux area are host to a variety of fish, including pike, perch, splake, salmon, and lake trout. On this chilly spring day, the water near the Cedarville Marina is calm. This past winter, Mr. Ebert said, he saw more wolf tracks and he also saw a bear one morning as he returned from a walk to the bakery with a blueberry muffin.

As an Islands Wildlife member, Mr. Eberts said he looks forward to the main event, the annual banquet. The fund-raiser always sells out and is well-attended, he said, by folks who vacation in the area and yeararound residents. This year’s banquet will be June 10. Tickets cost $50 and include a silent auction, a raffle and door prizes.

“The best thing about raising funds,” Mr. Eberts said, “is giving it away.”


A tug pushes a barge transporting an excavator from Flotation Docking Systems at Les Cheneaux. The excavator is returning from installing a dock in preparation for the upcoming boating season. A tug pushes a barge transporting an excavator from Flotation Docking Systems at Les Cheneaux. The excavator is returning from installing a dock in preparation for the upcoming boating season. Islands Wildlife President Tom Haske says the club always is looking for ways to give back to the community. The Island Wildlife Association’s motto is, “Dedicated to Promoting and Preserving Wildlife in the Les Cheneaux Islands.”

One important way the group has done that is to help support local education. The association gives scholarships to Cedarville and Pickford students, preferably those who will be entering the biology or environmental science fields.

Randy Schaedig knows firsthand of the numerous contributions Islands Wildlife has made to the Les Cheneaux School District.

Mr. Schaedig, who is the principal and superintendent of the school system, started 20 years ago as a biology teacher and introduced a project that continues today. Students search out a “skein” of perch egg masses in the marshes and count them. (A skein is a gelatinous ribbon in which perch lay their eggs.)

Islands Wildlife has filled many needs for the classes, including waders for students to use in this biology survey. Students search for the perch eggs from canoes and use Global Positioning Systems to mark the locations of the egg masses.

“Islands Wildlife is extremely supportive and helpful,” Mr. Schaedig said. The added worth is that students have “more appreciation and are more excited to learn about species in their own backyard,” he added.

Because the perch egg count is ongoing, students have several year’s research with which to compare their results. The count is important because perch are susceptible to predatory cormorants, which like to eat them when they are spawning, Mr. Schaedig said.

Islands Wildlife also supported hunter safety classes for sixthgraders with the Les Cheneaux Sportsman’s Club.

“We feel that it’s very valuable to have students learn to handle a firearm correctly, even if they never become a hunter,” Mr. Schaedig said. Each student receives a blaze-orange vest after completion of the course.

Islands Wildlife members enjoy boating, hunting, and bird watching. The islands are home to many species of birds, including ducks, geese, sandhill cranes, seagulls, loons, and swans.

An important facet of the group’s purpose is to enhance opportunities for others to experience and enjoy outdoor activities, including fishing. Fish that inhabit the waters include perch, salmon, walleye, splake, and lake trout. The waters also contain pike.

Islands Wildlife sponsors two fishing contests a year, the Slammin Salmon Derby in August and a pike fishing contest in the spring. This is the 10th year of the pike contest, which will take place over three weekends, from May 15 to June 4 at noon. according to Stan Kownacki, Islands Wildlife member and volunteer.

“We do the contest mainly to promote tourism and fishing in this area,” said Stan Kownacki, and Islands Wildlife member and volunteer. It has grown through the years to nearly 100 participants.

Those interested can pay the entry fee and sign up at the Cedarville EZ Mart (formerly known as the Cedarville Pantry). They also can purchase state fishing licenses at the store. There are two classes - one for children under age 14 and one for adults. The child entry fee is $10 and the adult entry fee is $20.

Once signed up, participants will receive the rules and numbers with which to register their catches. When a pike is caught, it’s brought back to the store to be measured. The contest is based not on the weight of fish, but the length.

There are two ways to fish for pike, Mr. Kownacki said. The first is trolling, which involves moving along the channels slowly in boat with a live minnow and sinker trailing in the water behind. He said it’s pleasant to see the boathouses and cottages of the Les Cheneaux area as one trolls by.

The second method is still-fishing in calm water from a boat, or by casting from the shore. Here, the minnow and sinker will sit on the lake bottom until a pike finds it. Both styles have been used to land winners.

In the last five years, winning pike have averaged 36 to 40 inches. The longest pike, 40.5 inches, was caught in 2015 by Jay Hills, a Michigan State Police trooper at St. Ignace.

Contest entrants can live anywhere from Sault Ste. Marie to the St. Ignace area and fish where they live, Mr. Kownacki said, so long as they are registered before they begin fishing and their fish are measured by the Cedarville EZ Mart. The phone number there is (906) 484-2275.

The results will be tallied and awards given out for the longest fish at noon June 4 at the Cedarville boat ramp. Prizes for children are $100 for first place, $75 for second place, and $50 for third place. Adults will receive a $300 award for first place, $200 for second, and $100 for third.

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